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Hafez - Studies in Conict Terrorism 29:591619 2006...

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Studies in Conflict & Terrorism , 29:591–619, 2006 Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1057-610X print / 1521-0731 online DOI: 10.1080/10576100600790878 Suicide Terrorism in Iraq: A Preliminary Assessment of the Quantitative Data and Documentary Evidence MOHAMMED M. HAFEZ University of Missouri—Kansas City Department of Political Science Kansas City, Missouri, USA This preliminary assessment of suicide terrorism in Iraq sheds light on why some groups in the insurgency employ suicide attacks although others do not. The unequal utilization of suicide bombings corresponds to divergent strategies in the insurgency. Some groups fight to achieve system reintegration, whereas others send suicide bombers to collapse the emerging political order. Quantitative data and documentary evidence substantiate the finding that suicide terrorism is carried out by groups that cannot compete in any future political and institutional alignments in Iraq’s new coalition politics. Suicide terrorism is intended to produce system collapse, sectarian warfare, and a failed state. Introduction Suicide terrorism in Iraq began with the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 and subsequent occupation of the country. However, insurgent groups that deploy suicide terrorism in Iraq frequently do so not just to remove the occupation forces from the country, but also to collapse the emerging regime by intimidating and annihilating the newly formed Iraqi security forces and by fostering a sectarian war between Shi’i and Sunni Muslims. Most suicide attacks in Iraq target the new Iraqi security services and Shi’i civilians, not coalition occupation forces. From 22 March 2003 to 20 February 2006, 443 suicide attacks took place in Iraq. Many of the elements present in previous campaigns of suicide terrorism can also be found in the Iraqi insurgency. Insurgent groups that utilize this tactic have done so in the name of tactical effectiveness, strategic necessity, and psychological effect. They also use their attacks to show that they are legitimate actors willing to pay the ultimate price in order to liberate the land and purge it of foreign impositions and local collaborators. However, several aspects of suicide terrorism in Iraq are unique in the contemporary history of suicide bombings, especially when compared to the major campaigns initiated Received 7 April 2006; accepted 3 May 2006. Author is grateful to the United States Institute of Peace for its generous grant toward this research project and to Ami Pedahzur and Ryan Alsabagh at the University of Texas at Austin for their valuable data. Address correspondence to Mohammed M. Hafez, Ph.D., University of Missouri—Kansas City, Department of Political Science, 213 Haag Hall, 5100 Rockhill Rd., Kansas City, MO 64110, USA. E-mail: [email protected] 591
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592 M. M. Hafez by Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and Hamas against Israel. First, the known perpetrators of suicide bombings in Iraq are non-Iraqis coming from other parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds (see Appendix). Most are connected to jihadi networks
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